Coordinating Through Perfection in Chief's Style: Animesh Das
A guy who persevered as an exceptional journalist, lived his life on perfection, terribly despised sports and whose functioning can be regarded as a code which doesn't need debugging, Animesh Das, a final year undergraduate from Department of Computer Science and Engineering is a quintessence of an impeccable personality. From being a devoted MM reporter to being one of its diligent Chief Coordinators and finally bagging one of the most coveted placements in the Department, Animesh Das had got a long tale to share. Amidst the backdrop of Moksha Xpress on a chilly winter evening, Team Monday Morning got an opportunity to have a beautiful and inspiring conversation with him.
Below is an excerpt from the conversation encrypted in the form of QnA.
THE CHILDHOOD DIARY
Monday Morning (MM): Walk us through your childhood days. Share with us some memories of your life before NIT Rourkela.
Animesh Das (AD): I was born and brought up in Kolkata. Although my father had a transferable job earlier, which later shifted into a desk job, I was based in Kolkata from the very beginning. In that respect, I would give most of the credits to my mother, who was responsible for my upbringing during my childhood days. I studied in a neighbourhood ICSE affiliated school till 10th, where the environment was very accommodating with the presence of warm teachers, who inculcated the moral values and etiquette within me. I was an obedient student with a pretty good academic record and even indulged myself in various extracurricular activities like Debate, Quiz, Elocution, etc. Apart from academics, I enjoyed a lot with my friends. We used to share very special moments at the time of school functions, concerts, picnics, and study tours. Even, today I am in contact with many of my friends and teachers as well. I grew up in a small, nuclear family, not at all with an affluent background. I am the first generation in my family to pursue Science and Engineering, whereas my father and mother were Commerce and Humanities graduate, respectively. Being the only child of my parents, I got to receive a lot of affection from them and support from every aspect; be it emotional, financial or academics. I was horrible at sports. I remember participating in the races that involved solving Maths problems and reaching the finish line first (laughs). Even if I got into a sports team, I was always a substitute. So there wasn't a speck of sportive skill within me, to be honest. So, overall my childhood was pretty normal, mostly focussed on academics.
THE INCEPTION OF THE NITR JOURNEY
MM: How did NIT Rourkela happen to you? Had you made up your mind before that you were to pursue Engineering after your twelfth?
AD: While growing up, I was really confused on what to pursue after twelfth. I didn't receive much guidance on the educational front. Moreover, my parents had different aspirations set upon me. My father wanted me to pursue humanities and be a civil servant while my mother wished me to become a doctor. I was in a state of dilemma whether to go with Computer Science or Biology as my elective in 11th standard. Ultimately I landed up keeping Biology as my elective, thinking that would make me suitable for Medical entrance examinations. Though I had joined FIITJEE during 9th standard for getting a good grip over the foundational courses, my actual preparation for JEE started in 11th. FIITJEE provided me with a platform to meet and interact with innumerous meritorious students who have excelled now in their respective domains in their colleges. Meanwhile, I got into a convent school, that was way bigger than the previous school. This school provided me with a competitive environment with my fellow peers. I appeared for both JEE Mains and AIPMT (presently NEET). But I had a target set in me to secure a seat in one of the older IITs through JEE Advanced. Unfortunately, my rank didn't give me a chance to opt for an older IIT, and with a rank of around 2500 in JEE Mains, I decided to go for an NIT. I had no idea of what branch to pursue, but since I had some interests in Physics, I wished to become a Mechanical Engineer. However, after much discussions and deliberations and being coaxed by my relatives, I re-arranged my order preference and gave Computer Science & Engineering as my upper priority, owing to its demand and placements. I remember that I got allotted SVNIT Surat in the first round and then at NIT Rourkela in the second. However, my parents didn't agree with SVNIT Surat as it was very far from my place. I didn't know anything about NIT Rourkela prior to coming to this place. I searched it over the Internet and got to know a lot of things about this college; its rank, quality of education, etc. and I was really impressed. Meanwhile, I had also applied for Jadavpur University, but that being politicised a bit at that time, made me a bit reluctant to go for it. However, I came to Rourkela with my family on the day of reporting, froze and got my seat confirmed. Again I came on the day of admission with just a day's clothes packed in my suitcase, having made my mind that I would return if I didn't like the place. However, within the day or two, I really liked the atmosphere over here, which I found to be completely suitable for me. I made up my mind that NIT Rourkela would be my second home from then for the next four years to come. That is how NIT Rourkela happened to me.
MM: How was your first year in NITR?
AD: My first year was very monotonous and exhausting. I was very close to my family, so at times I used to feel very homesickly. It was really hard for me to get up early in the morning to attend the classes, that too, with the burden of such a strict attendance policy on our head. Even it was harder to reach early to the morning jogging sessions that we used to have in our first year. I attended most of the clubs' orientation sessions but didn't get into any since I missed most of the inductions because of my regular visits back home every weekend. I used to play TT in halls and even attended the usual PE classes. I hated the lectures since I wasn't at all familiar with the teaching of university professors. They were very indifferent and remained totally disconnected from the students. Moreover, I was also introduced to the concept of zones in college. I was wondering if there ever existed any Bengal zone, and even though it existed, it would hardly consist of 15-16 members. The thing I liked the most was that there was a healthy competition among the people of the same batch; not a kind of rivalry, where someone wished to outshine others. I had already accepted the fact that I won't shine among others and remain as an average student with a decent grade point.
MM: Since you were from Biology background, did you feel intimidating seeing your peers' code better than you?
AD: I was not intimidated honestly. I did not feel that urge to excel in academics and get noticed by TAs or lab assistants. I used to take my own time to code a piece of the program. Moreover, most of the people in my batch improved their coding skills after joining NITR, including myself. I used to go through some programs online, but my schedule of learning was completely flexible. I didn't set any deadline to learn a particular programming language. As of now, I don't enjoy coding much. If given a chance to rank my hobbies and interests, coding would definitely secure the last position.
MM: Not many people know that you were into various fests during your fresher year and sophomore year as well. Tell us about your experiences of working in the fests.
AD: My first experience of working in a fest was during the multi-ethnic fest in my first year. I was participating in a Bengali group song. During the puja vacation, one of my seniors had asked me for this and insisted me to get into the group, though I knew that I wasn't a good singer at all. Ultimately I ended up on the stage singing, though the mic was placed much farther away from me. However, I enjoyed every bit of rehearsals. We got to wear beautiful ethnic attires and enjoyed savoury meals. But unfortunately, I didn't get the certificate for that. Then I worked as a volunteer in the decoration team during Nitrutsav the following year. In my second year, I got the opportunity to work as a coordinator in the online publicity team and eventually got into the event management team where I was appointed two of the events during Innovision. The things that I contributed during Nitrutsav in my third year was something relatable to my branch. I got the opportunity to work on the front end under the technical team. I also had my friend Malkhan who was working on the back end instead. I was very glad that I got the opportunity to work in the Registration Team as well where we used to sit throughout the entire night in SAC verifying the visitor's credentials and distributing welcome kits to them. I was delighted that this time, however, I got a certificate issued for my work (laughs). Overall, those were really amazing experiences working for various fests until now.
MONDAY MORNING CALLS
MM: How did Monday Morning happen to you? Had you made up your mind earlier that you wanted to join MM or was it spontaneous?
AD: Monday Morning happened almost instantly. Prior to joining MM, I was a part of Microsoft Campus Club, which I joined with the motive of improving my technical knowledge and coding skills. The post-holders there knew that I was a good writer, so they started allotting me to write blogs, format it and post it in their social media platforms. I didn't like doing this because that wasn't the reason I joined the club for. Subsequently, I ended up not replying to any messages on the group, which ultimately landed me a rightful termination from the club. I didn't wish to have a blank field in the extracurricular department. So I decided to indulge myself in something suiting my interest at any cost. I was interested in being a part of the content team of Monday Morning owing to my good writing skills. I appeared for the written round, which I found to be very easy. At the same time, I was also in a state of dilemma whether I should go for it or not since I had heard a lot about the workload. However, I moved forward with the task round where I was allotted to take the interview of Abhishek Panda, the Chief Coordinator of MM for the session 2016-17 and write a club review article of Heartbeats. My interview with concerned members of the club and with Abhishek Panda was done completely in an amateurish fashion. I was so engrossed and concentrated in the writing part that I almost forgot about framing a proper questionnaire. I even forgot to record the interview out of asking various vague questions. The most terrible blunder that I committed was reaching at Abhishek Bhai's place for taking his interview without having a questionnaire ready beforehand, which was obviously quite amateur and unprofessional of me. But he was kind enough to grant me another chance to come again with a proper questionnaire. Finally, I got a slot where I could complete a proper interview of him for the induction task. On the PI day, I was interviewed by the panel consisting of Aratrika Ghose, Anurag Saha Roy and Gyan Prasad Sahoo who didn't grill me for hours but rather asked straightforward questions based on the answers I wrote in the written round. The interview went well, and I was hopeful that I would get selected. When the final list of inductees got published, I was not surprised to see my name on the list. And that is how MM happened to me.
MM: Tell us something about your tenure as a reporter. Can you recall any eventful incident occurred while reporting or any article that has got a special spot reserved in your tenure as a reporter?
AD: One of my favourite articles which I personally enjoyed a lot was the Sports Facilities appraisal article. That was the first article where I got the opportunity to carry on a lot of groundwork. I had Amlan Arman and Sandeepan Mohanty as my co-reporters who did most of the groundwork like contacting the team captains and getting to know about their grievances, etc. I got to interview the then VPs and the SAS officers who were very sceptical about MM then and also very evasive. Procuring some of the significant information pertaining to this topic like budget, future plans, etc. from the concerned authorities was a tiresome task. I remember that was the first time I couldn't submit my task before the deadline for which I really felt disappointed in myself. However, I got to know the real taste of how bureaucracy functioned in an institution. Following this allotment, I was allotted with numerous sports articles like Vriddhi Prefest Analysis, Full coverage and the Post Fest Analysis as well. I was really delighted to take the interview of Madhura Banerjee who graced as key-note speaker during Roots 2.0. Another unforgettable incident was the interview of the convenors of Nitrutsav for the post-fest analysis. Following that, I was allotted to do various hall-review articles where I did all the groundwork meticulously and diligently. I used to go from one washroom to another, counting the number of broken mirrors, missing showerheads and all other stuff. I never got a chance to work for a DD or CWC, for which I also regret asking my CCs for giving me a chance to do so. From then, there wasn't a way to look back. I left no stone unturned in presenting a perfect article. I used to read in between the lines and ensured that my article got published unedited. Even my CCs appreciated me for some of my articles, and that's how my overall growth happened. I thought that if I did most of my MM tasks seriously with dedication and sincerity, then why shouldn't I give it a try for the post of the Chief Coordinator. And that was how my tenure as a reporter went and the first phase of CCship initiated.
MM: Tell us about your journey from a reporter to a Chief Coordinator (CC) of Monday Morning.
AD: I had made up my mind that I wanted to be a CC. My CC selection process was a long, painful and demanding experience, and I was on the verge of breakdown in between. I was not expecting it at the commencement, so I was naturally surprised when my name was called. It took me some days to accept the fact that I am one of the CCs of Monday Morning. But after some meetings, I came to peace with it and realised that I have to do much work in the year to come. After the semester started, we started contacting different professors that we are the Chief Coordinators of Monday Morning now and you can contact us now for any issues you have with Monday Morning.
MM: How do you compare your tenures as a reporter and a CC? Which one do you find more challenging?
AD: It goes without saying that being a CC was more interesting and challenging in every way. Being a CC gave me the responsibility of handling all the articles that were going to be published and not just the one or two that were allotted to me. I also had to stay updated on what is happening on the campus, what we have not covered yet, and what more needs to be done. Being a CC taught me time management, honed me in leadership skills and more. But being a reporter was more rewarding in the sense that my articles were appreciated but being a CC was more like taking responsibility for the team. So, I would say that both the tenures were great but in different aspects.
MM: Did your CCship affect your academic performance or search for internships in any way?
AD: When I was looking for an internship in my third year, it was then when I faced the most number of rejections in my life combined. And the rejections were quite infuriating as I was getting rejected in the interview rounds in most of the cases. The process is very demanding as they almost take up your whole day and the interviews happen at night. But never once have I blamed my CCship for these failures. The major reason for my early rejections was that I lacked the skillset that they required in corporate jobs. I was very dejected. But then I applied for MITACS and took up a research internship. I have always kept my CC life separate from my academics life, and I would never say that being a CC has harmed my academic performance in any way.
MM: Being a media body, what more should Monday Morning do other than writing and publishing articles?
AD: The trends are changing very fast nowadays, and social media is expanding faster than ever in reaching out to the youth. So a media body has to stay relevant when it comes to connecting to the youth. Just addressing the daily happenings is not enough because there are faster ways than an article on Monday Morning for students to stay updated to that. And when it comes to reviews and criticism, people are always complaining about anything. If MM addresses a new issue, then it's well and good. This year, MM is expanding its horizon, and I am very happy about that.
MM: It's a general trend that the readership among youth has decreased in general? In that case, how can MM still stay relevant?
AD: To capture people's attention, you need to bombard them with new colours, vibrant topics which have never been explored. You have to give them the content they can relate to. And you have to do that frequently as everything gets old within a week nowadays. And to get more readership, you have to get noticed. I must say that there have been many memes about Monday Morning recently. And I cringe on them, but at the same time, those memes are what make people still talk about Monday Morning on a daily basis.
THE MITACS INTERNSHIP
MM: Tell us about your MITACS internship.
AD: So, after getting rejected from so many industrial internships, I started looking for research internships. I applied for MITACS first and seeing the options of so many projects and university choices; I didn't apply anywhere else. When the results came, I was over the moon. I promptly emailed my professor-in-charge of my internship and made plans for my travel and stay there. I was interning at Athabasca University in Alberta. The project on which I was working on was Vehicle Classification using Deep Learning which was a continuation of a project that started a year earlier. And the result came in the form of a publication of a paper based on our research. One of my friends- Saswat Dash was working on a similar domain, so after coming back, we have decided to collaborate so as to get two papers published.
MM: Tell us about your time in Canada.
AD: I really enjoyed the work culture there. People there won't judge you by the way you look or live. Instead, they focus on the quality of work that you do. And the diversification there is quite awesome as they accept students from all over the country. The city was quite cold. I toured around the city quite a bit.
The people there are quite interested in your work, and they really know how to keep up with trends in technology. My professor there was quite an invested one, and he would frequently check on us and will arrange many resources for us too, which is quite a different experience from here where some professors don’t know your name even if you are working under them.
My flatmate was very supportive when I was worried about my placements. The best thing about the people there is that no job is looked down upon and they respect you for whatever you do.
THE PLACEMENT JOURNEY
MM: Tell us about your placement journey.
AD: The placement statistics for our branch have been good this year. The Placement Coordinators have been working very hard. I applied for PC but dropped out of it as I knew I would be in the MITACS internship when the placement season starts.
The first company that I applied was American Express which was an off-campus company. After I came to campus, I sat for three companies before finally being placed in DailyHunt. But the placement hunt was not as disappointing and painful as my search for an internship. DailyHunt came on Sunday, and 18 of us got selected for further rounds. Then there were two technical interviews, and I performed very confidently in them. The second technical interview was at night and I had become anxious and desperate for this placement. After the technical rounds, the HR round happened soon, and the result was also announced promptly.
MM: Why did you choose an industrial placement over research after building a good research base in MITACS internship?
AD: When I was doing my research, I read a lot of papers and spent a lot of time just studying a lot of things. Then I realised that research opportunities in India are not very fulfilling, especially when I don't have a knack for it. And after my internship, I realised that being a researcher is thinking something new and implementing it. Honestly, I don't have that passion. Also, even if I had to choose a research career, it would have been abroad because the research field in India is not very rewarding financially, and being the only son, I have to support my family. So, when I got a corporate placement, I went for it.
MM: Tell us about your current project that you are working on.
AD: So it's a final year project which I am working under Prof. Bidyut Kumar Patra. My project is based on Vehicle Tracking Systems. It is based on the GPS and auxiliary data of a vehicle like check-ins and other things. We are using more advanced Machine Learning techniques. My professors have given me flexibility in what I want to do and focus more on learning rather than building. My PhD guide is also lenient in terms of work hours. The project is currently in the experimental stage.
KNOWING MORE ABOUT ANIMESH DAS
MM: We have heard that you're great at multitasking and you enjoy playing PUBG and watching series while maintaining a good academic record. Tell us how you manage your time between your academics and leisure.
AD: I don't really get engrossed in playing games or watching series. I just enjoy them casually and use them as a stress buster. And rather than multitasking, I would say I switch between activities very frequently. And nowadays, it is becoming a problem as I find it hard to focus on one thing now. So that is a problem, but sometimes also a blessing in disguise.
MM: We heard that you were a bit reserved at the beginning of your college and didn’t interact a lot with everyone. Tell us about how you opened up to college life.
AD: I was not an introvert, but I found it difficult to connect to people, maybe because of the language barrier. But I wanted to feel connected. I was very spoilt at home, and I found it very effortful even to walk to college every morning. I used to go to my home almost every weekend in my first year. I used to interact with my friends who used to live around me. But again, my circle was very limited. From the second year, I made some friends out of my physical circle like from Monday Morning, in my department and many more. And when you start spending more time with your friends, you start sharing stuff with them and that is how I became more extroverted.
MM: How has been your journey till now in NITR?
AD: I have learned a lot about life and a lot about NITR in these years in college. And where there is bureaucracy, everything happens off the book. That's a life lesson I learned here. I was unaware of the place before coming here, and I was totally unprepared to live here when I came to the campus for the first time. My first time outside the campus was the trek to the hill that we take in Physical Education. I must say that in the last one year, SAC has improved a lot in understanding the students, the clubs and the culture that we want to follow and that all happened after it got restructured and followed a proper procedure. Another problem that I initially faced here was the language barrier. A lot of the students talk in Odia and it was challenging for me to understand, in which my friends have helped me a lot.
In the academics front, the curriculum has improved a lot, and the credits system has been revamped to balance the courses. The main problem with the attendance is that students don't find time after the classes to devote sufficient time to extracurricular activities. They have now started online learning programs like SWAYAM and NPTEL and also introduced the fast-paced program for students, which are steps forward.
But the process needs to be faster. The professors need to be more dedicated to students and need to update the curriculum regularly.
Quoting Santarupa Mishra, he says:
The difference is that, in England, students learn. In India, they are taught.
But one thing that really drives me off about the academics is the grading system.
One hundred marks are not enough to judge what a student did in his four months. And the 20 marks which are in the hand of the professor is just unfair. Every other professor marks these 20 marks using different criteria and the students don't deserve that. The attendance is not uploaded on time, and the list of faults in our academics go on.
MM: Whom do you consider as your inspiration?
AD: I don't have a role model as such, but there are a lot of people who have helped me. My parents, my teachers at school and FIITJEE, my friends from Monday Morning and my department have all helped me a lot and have taught me a lot, and I learn from them every day.
MM: What are your future plans?
AD: I plan on continuing this job for at least a few years. Then I will either take up masters or will take an attempt at UPSC examination because I have wanted to be an IAS officer for a long time. But if UPSC doesn't go well, I will return to the Computer Science industry.
MM: What is your Success Mantra?
AD: I don't have a success mantra as such, but I do believe in honesty and professional work ethics. One should always complete the work with honesty and check where he lacks. I don't follow a time table because it would be too cumbersome for me. But one can always look up to a proper routine in life. One must do the job with as much quality as possible, and that is an abstract success mantra for me.
MM: What will be your message to NITR?
AD: These four/five years is the most important phase of your life. Stop being spoon-fed and start doing things on your own. Start interacting with people and know more about life. But as you talk with people, know that you are your best judge. So don’t feel inferior due to other’s achievements, and start taking criticisms positively. Don’t make your college life a rat race and take your time to complete what you have started.
Team Monday Morning wishes all the very best to Animesh for his future endeavours. May he excel in his field and scale new heights.